After Boracay, Baguio next?

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All week, reports have besieged us that Baguio, along with tourist destinations, are on the line for needed rehabilitation. Boracay has just been re-opened after 6 months of enforced shut-down, and by all indications, the regulatory policies to keep the world-famous tourist place spanky clean and environment-compliant will be sternly followed.

Already, His Honor had to use the social media networks to belie that Baguio’s rehabilitation, as supposedly ordered by no less that the President, was fake news, emphasizing that no such presidential directive has been issued. If indeed, it’s forthcoming, as no less than both DENR and DOT Secretaries have made known their displeasure over Baguio’s unchecked degradation, obviously there’s nothing that local officials can do but comply, given the President’s publicly aired outbursts over the way environmental laws and policies have been so ignored. If he can do it in Boracay, he certainly can do it in other similarly ill-fated tourist places.

Just my take: surely, Baguio needs to be rehabilitated, its dwindling forest cover and overall environmental ambience so badly allowed to deteriorate in recent years. Ompong’s onslaught just two months ago gave us an eye-opening reality into how vulnerable Baguio has become to flooding, landslides, and other natural occurrences that pose a deadly menace to life and property. Flooding takes place because rainwater that had been poured on our mountain-bred area could no longer be held by loosened up mountain soil, and had no other place to go but downward. Landslides occur simply because the trees that used to be there had been replaced by vegetative cover that is unable to contain the raging waters.

The fact is, for years now, Baguio’s natural environment, which serves as the city’s lifeline into a prospective future for everyone,  has been deteriorating so badly that it’s a wonder we haven’t been the target of PRRD’s usual expletives. Its degradation has been going on for nearly several decades now, with everyone — the local officials, the businessmen, the tourists and yes even you and I who have long enjoyed its haven-like protection — sharing a level of irresponsibility without peer.

Far too long have we heard oldtimers and balikbayan relatives express disappointment over Baguio’s unchecked descent into near-perdition. Our mountains used to have towering trees to make it look like the protective cover that they have been. They’re gone, replaced by human settlements that been allowed to perch in perilous situations vulnerable to ground movement. The air that we breathe, especially in downtown Baguio, has become bad air, bad to our health, bad for our elderlies and children, bad for everyone. Why couldn’t we have pure, clean, natural air? Clearly, the toxic fumes polluting our atmosphere are why we’re having bad air, the level of toxicity menacingly becoming deadlier the closer we are where motor vehicles are plying city routes.

To say the least, Baguio’s environmental resources have not grown any lusher in the last five years or more. Pines trees  which have long been our stellar natural attraction have been so recklessly felled down wherever and whatever, seemingly from a complex network of connivance and deceit, both national and local,  wherever a human settlement gets to, well, settle down, whether a high-rise townhouse or condo type project, or plain home-seekers wanting to have a piece of Baguio lot where humble shelters can be built on.

Our own waterways continued to be clogged up by all sorts of wastes, simply because people had been merrily dumping everything on creeks and river tributaries. Solid waste continued to pile up from indiscriminate generation, tons of which growing in magnitude as a result of increased waste-generating activities. The good news is we don’t see garbage shamelessly littering our roads. The bad news is the waste we produce gets to be transported and dumped elsewhere, at about P100 million, on the average, a year in the last twelve years. A permanent solution to our garbage woes has long been an elusive thing, escaping a final pint-point determination by the best minds in the business. Trash disposal must have been good business for those in the business of hauling and dumping.

Like the rest of us, we’re hopeful year after year that Baguio’s environment would merit the highest priority from both government and the private sector. Simply stated, it’s all about caring and sharing, between and among our own residents and the visitors we graciously host anytime of the year. It’s all about the precious environment that Baguio used to have in all its uniqueness, the very natural resource that has made Baguio an ideal mountain haven created from the forested land it was found more than a century ago. It is this primary asset that we all need to preserve, nurture, care for, and manage well for generations next to enjoy and bequeath to equally caring heirs.

Let’s not wait for a Presidential ire to come our way. Let’s not wait for Baguio to lose out in the only race that counts: survive or perish. Let’s just get environmentally concerned for Baguio to get a well-deserved reprieve from all the negligence that we’ve done, and really get going anew for a long-deserve rebirth, a new beginning as it were, crafted from the best minds and the good hearts that we know we have in our own midst. Winning this race — not just in 2019 — is the best competition we can ever win in our lifetime.

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